A record result was set in the Russian capital Moscow even before the polling stations closed. According to official figures, participation was more than 40 percent.

This many Muscovites have not voted in mayoral elections for 20 years. Even when opposition leader Alexei Navalny took office in 2013, it was only 32 percent. In a total of 85 regions of Russia, voters were asked to cast their votes at various levels.

There was no sign of election fever in Moscow either during the election campaign or during the three days of voting. The rush to the polls was limited. The incumbent, Sergei Sobyanin, was considered the clear favorite, and the opposing candidates were hardly known to most voters. There were reports that companies and administrations urged their employees to vote. Voters should vote primarily electronically. On Saturday, a Muscovite woman was taken to a police station because she asked for a paper ballot at the polling station instead of voting at the push of a button, the online portal OWD-Info reported. She was fined.

Sham elections in occupied parts of Ukraine

For the first time, Russia also held sham elections in the occupied parts of Ukraine. From there, the authorities even reported particularly high voting figures. More than 50 percent are said to have voted in the annexed part of Zaporizhia, over 60 percent in the Russian-controlled parts of Kherson and Luhansk, and even more than 70 percent in the Donetsk region. The Kremlin party United Russia was clearly in the lead.

The information could not be independently verified. There were as few independent election observers there as there were in Russia itself. The non-governmental organization “Golos”, which had repeatedly uncovered violations in previous votes, was banned by the Kremlin in advance as being undesirable, and the co-chairman Grigory Melkonyants was arrested a few weeks ago .

Nevertheless, a number of irregularities were reported again this time: In one region, communist supporters allegedly filmed a member of the local election commission exchanging ballot papers. However, the Interior Ministry spoke of only a few incidents across the country that had no impact on the result. The electoral commission made a faux pas when results from the Siberian region of Yakutia appeared on its voting table – 20 minutes before the last polling stations there closed. The authority later spoke of a technical error. Only the results from polling stations that had already been closed were shown.

Kremlin candidates on the rise

The preliminary results indicate a breakthrough for the Kremlin candidates. In the Far East, the governors appointed by the Russian leadership consistently lead.

The Kremlin will probably have to accept its only defeat in the Siberian republic of Khakassia, where the communist governor Valentin Konovalov, who came to office on a wave of protests five years ago, led with around 60 percent of the vote. However, the Kremlin had already acknowledged its defeat there a few days ago and removed its own candidate from the race because of alleged health problems.